Democracy appears to be a burden for the “modern” American Federation of Teachers

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On Friday, fellow public education advocate and commentator Sarah Darer Littman wrote an incredibly powerful piece in CT Newsjunkie entitled “Serving Up A Preferred Candidate,” in which she took issue with the obviously undemocratic process that the American Federation of Teachers was using to endorse a candidate for President of the United States.

Sarah Darer Littman opened her piece with the following observation,

I’ve been commenting privately for years that the unions don’t need the Koch Brothers to destroy them — they are doing a good job of that themselves by working against the interests of their own rank-and-file membership. I speak in particular of AFT President Randi Weingarten, who reportedly pulled in an AFT income of over half a million dollars in 2014, while the average teacher salary in the United States has declined by 2.3 percent since 2000 to $56,689.

Sarah Darer Littman went on to describe what appeared to be the AFT’s presidential endorsement process, which was hardly a model of openness and transparency.

Less than 24 hours later, AFT President Randi Weingarten, a close personal friend of Hillary Clinton and a member of Hillary Clinton’s “Super-PAC,” announced that that AFT was endorsing Hillary Clinton for President.

As Politico reported, Weingarten explained the endorsement by stating,

“Clinton is a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities.”

The harsh reality is that Hillary Clinton has actually been a vocal proponent of the corporate education reform agenda and she has a long way to go before it can be said that she is the best choice for students, parents, public schools or the teachers who make up the American Federation of Teachers.

Before Election Day 2016, Hillary Clinton may very well become the Democratic nominee and the best choice for President, but the AFT’s premature endorsement is actually a disservice to Clinton, and more importantly, to the nation’s teachers and the legacy of the American Federation of Teachers, a union that is steeped in the history of American Democracy.

But Weingarten seems intent on leading a “modern” AFT.

Last summer, Randi Weingarten and the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter was committed to endorsing Governor Dannel Malloy’s and his effort to get re-elected to the governor’s office despite the fact that Malloy was the only sitting Democratic Governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers in the poorest school districts.

However, rather than use the campaign and the endorsement process to focus attention on Malloy’s ugly record on public education and provide him with an opportunity to become a supporter, rather than an opponent, of teachers and the teaching profession, the union leadership throws out their “democratic” endorsement process in order to hand him the union’s support.

Despite being the only pro-public education, pro-teacher candidate in the race for Governor, the AFT-CT refused to allow me to fill out a candidate questionnaire, refused to allow me to speak to the AFT-CT candidate endorsing committee, refused to allow me to address the AFT-CT executive committee and even prohibited me from speaking to the AFL-CIO’s annual endorsing convention, a meeting in which Randi Weingarten was the keynote speaker.

At the time, no one doubted that the leadership of the AFT and AFL-CIO would endorse Dannel Malloy, but prohibiting an open, transparent and democratic process was a sad reminder that being with the perceived winner – at all costs – has become the exclusive goal of some union leaders.

A year later and nothing has changed.

Once again, few doubted Hilary Clinton would get the endorsement from her friend Randi Weingarten and the union she runs.

But rather than ensure that the AFT provided for an open and honest discussion and an endorsement process that ensured that the membership was heard and their opinions taken into consideration, Weingarten pushed through an early endorsement thereby allowing Time Magazine to write;

Hillary Clinton Wins Key Endorsement From American Federation of Teachers –

Hillary Clinton has secured the first major union endorsement of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

The American Federation of Teachers, a powerful, 1.6 million-strong national union, voted on Saturday to endorse the former secretary of state, calling Clinton a “champion” for “working families.”

But the truth is the endorsement was from the union’s leadership, not the members. 

Clinton and her historic candidacy would have been better off if the leadership of the AFT had actually engaged in a process to build a true consensus that Hillary Clinton is the best choice for teachers and public education.

And certainly the American Federation for Teachers would have been better off had its leaders approach the endorsement process in a truly democratic way.

Instead the AFT leadership’s actions undermine the extraordinary legacy of the AFT itself.

Begun in 1900, the American Federation of Teachers earned the right to represent more than 1.5 million members because the AFT leadership has always been dedicated to developing a union focused on improving the conditions for teachers and the public schools that educate America’s children.

It has been a difficult journey for the AFT.

Nearly three decades after it was founded, unprecedented efforts to undermine the union and convince teachers not to unionize resulted in the AFT’s membership to drop below 5,000 teachers in the years leading up to the Great Depression.

Even after the Depression and World WW II, the AFT failed to make great strides in the face of opposition to collective bargaining for teachers.

But then came the incredible work of Albert Shanker, Charles Cogen and other fearless labor leaders that changed the course of teachers and their unions.

In the ten years following 1960, a dedication to improving pay and working conditions for teachers and pushing policies that created schools that provided educational opportunities to all children, bolstered the number of AFT members from 65,000 to 400,000

A continued commitment to doing right for teachers and students grew the AFT to over 1 million members by the year 2000.

Shanker and those who built the AFT were never afraid to take controversial positions, fight for real change or push the union’s agenda, but they also understood the importance of including and representing their members in a way that has apparently become foreign to some of today’s union leaders.

Certainly Shanker made his share of mistakes over the years and received more than his fair share of criticism, but he profoundly believed in then notion that collective bargaining and democracy go hand in hand.

Those that know the story behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech and The March on Washington in 1963 know of the incredible work that the AFT played in that event and throughout the Civil Rights Movement.

For those that don’t know, while many unions tried to hide on the sidelines, the AFT helped finance that historic March and many of Dr. King efforts.   A glimpse at any photo from that momentous day reveals the AFT’s signs and their pro-education, pro-labor and pro-civil rights message.

Yet another extraordinary event in the AFT’s history was the decision by its affiliate, the UFT of New York City, to take a position, decades before others, to refuse to invest their funds in any bank or company that was associated with South Africa’s apartheid system.

Over the decades the American Federation of Teachers never lost sight of the importance of winning, but perhaps even more importantly, it never backed down for its commitment to stand on principle and promote a union that was dedicated to the democratic rights of its members and the nation.

But the passage of time has brought uncomfortable changes and it would appear that “winning,” however narrowly defined, has become the primary goal.

In Connecticut, the AFT’s notion of winning was re-electing a pro-charter school, anti-public education, anti-teacher candidate, rather than allowing a supportive, third-party candidate to even be considered.

And yesterday, the “modern” AFT endorsed Hillary Clinton without utilizing an open, transparent and democratic process.

In the real world, this approach is often referred to as the notion that “The end justifies the means” and, as we know, it is a concept that has been used to explain away some of the most inappropriate actions in history.

Hilary Clinton could become the best choice for teachers, students and our public schools, but she needs to do far better to earn that support.

And teachers, the members of the AFT and the AFT’s legacy deserve better than they got with the Clinton endorsement.

Another Charter School Front Group – More apparent ethics law violations (Re-post)

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Here we go again… Yet another faux education advocacy group appears unwilling or unable to follow Connecticut’s ethics laws.

The number of corporate funded education reform and charter school front groups in Connecticut is popping up faster than the buds appear during a warm spring week and these groups seem virtually incapable of adhering to Connecticut’s ethics and lobbying laws.

You may need to read this post a few times to follow the bouncing ball…

It was just a few weeks ago that CT News Junkie columnist Sarah Darer Littman wrote a scathing column on the ethics problems associated with the New York based corporate education reform industry group called Families for Excellent Schools and its subsidiary, and entity called the Coalition for Every Child.

In the piece entitled, Are Charter Advocacy Groups Skirting CT Ethics Laws?, Darer Littman laid out the facts surrounding the Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child controversy.

The well-financed charter school advocacy group is the organization that is paying for the television ads promoting Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget that makes historic cuts to public education while dramatically increasing funding for charter schools.

The group was also one of the sponsors of this week’s pro-charter school rally at the State Capitol that featured Malloy.

As the Hartford Courant reported, charter school students and parents were bused in to Hartford from as far away as Boston and New York City in an attempt to persuade Connecticut legislators to divert even more money so that Steve Perry could open a charter school in Bridgeport and a Bronx charter school chain could open up a charter school in Stamford.

As Sarah Darer Littman explained, not only had Families for Excellent Schools run into ethics issues in New York, but they were failing to report activities and expenditures here in Connecticut.

Now it looks like another new charter school advocacy group called “FaithActs for Education” is failing to report its lobbying related activities as required under state law – violations that should be met with thousands of dollars in fines.

Although FaithActs for Education was rolled out on February 15, 2015 in a well-scripted press conference featuring Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and a number of Bridgeport ministers, the corporation called FaithActs for Education was actually formed in October 2014.

As the Connecticut Post reported in February, “With the public backing of Mayor Bill Finch, a faith-based education advocacy group, FaithActs for Education, conducted its first meeting on Monday declaring a dedication ‘to improving education for all children in Bridgeport, no matter what type of school they attend.’”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who participated in the event said,

“We know where we are and where we need to go. FaithActs for Education will help us to become even more of a force to be reckoned with.”

In addition to supporting Governor Malloy’s education reform agenda and Mayor Bill Finch, as he faces a difficult re-election campaign, FaithActs for Education’s immediate work has been to support Steve Perry’s plan to open a publicly funded, but privately owned and operated charter school in Bridgeport.

According to a press release issued by FaithActs for Education, the entity is led by,

  • Reverend William McCullough, Pastor, Russell Temple CME Church
  • Bishop John P. Diamond, Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Faith,
  • Reverend Janene Hawkins, Pastor, Walters Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church,
  • Reverend Carl McCluster, Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church,
  • Reverend Cass Shaw, President & CEO, Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport,
  • Reverend Jeremy L. Williams, Pastor, West End Tabernacle CME Church.
  • In addition, the infamous Reverend Kenneth Moales, Pastor, Cathedral of the Holy Spirit is also playing a role with the group.

The organization’s chairman, Reverend McCullough, along with Reverend Moales and Reverend McCluster are all listed as original members of the Governing Council of Steve Perry’s new charter school in Bridgeport and all have been engaged in lobbying the State Board of Education and the General Assembly on Perry’s behalf.

Although we’re led to believe that FaithActs for Education is a homegrown group of religious leaders working to promote educational opportunities for all of Bridgeport’s children, the real story is very different.

According to the incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of the State, FaithActs for Education Inc. was created by Jamilah Prince-Stewart, who now serves as the entity’s Executive Director.

At the time of incorporation she served as the Director of Community Engagement for ConnCAN, Connecticut’s leading charter school lobby group.  In addition, FaithActs’ Director of Operations and Programs left her position as Special Projects Manager at ConnCAN to join the new advocacy group.

At the February 2015 press conference to roll out FaithActs for Education, both ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander and former ConnCAN CEO Alex Johnson were in attendance.

In addition to their lobbying work with ConnCAN, Alexander and Johnson were the individuals who formed A Better Connecticut, Inc. yet another education reform industry front group that spent more than $2 million on television ads during the year before the last gubernatorial election to “thank” Governor Malloy for his “leadership” on behalf of the corporate education reform agenda.

FaithActs’ initial press conference was orchestrated by the new group’s spokesman, Bob Bellafiore.

As public education advocate Maria Pereira noted at the time, Bellafiore is the founder of Stanhope Partners, an Albany PR firm that works for the charter school industry.

Before setting up his own company, he served as a Vice President of National Heritage Academies, a for-profit charter chain that owns and operates 75 charter schools in nine states, making it the third largest for-profit charter school company in the United States.

Just last year, National Heritage Academies made national news when it was discovered that it was charging one of its’ Brooklyn charter schools $2.3 million in rent per year even though it was leasing the property for much less.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgeport, FaithActs for Education purports to be a, “grassroots organizing nonprofit based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We exist to help faith leaders and their congregations step outside their place of worship to advocate for improved educational opportunities for their own children and the children of Bridgeport.”

The organization’s rhetoric goes on to say that, “created as a 501(c)3 Foundation,” FaithActs receives funding from various foundations and individuals, although, to date, it has failed to reveal which foundations or individuals are underwriting the organization’s lobbying and advocacy activities.

FaithActs for Education also shares an address with Educators 4 Excellence, another corporate funded advocacy group that claims to speak for teachers who are opposed to tenure and other collective bargaining rights.  (See Wait, What? Post Educators 4 Excellence – Because teachers NEED their own “Education Reform” front group)

But even if all of that wasn’t indicative enough of the power and inter-relationship of the corporate education reform industry, there is more….

According to the incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of the State’s Office, FaithActs for Education’s agent of service is its Executive Director, Jamilah Prince-Stewart.

However, rather than recording the organization’s actual physical office in Bridgeport for corporate related service issues, the official corporate filing lists the following;

FAITHACTS FOR EDUCATION,

C/O PUBLIC SQUARE PARTNERSHIP,

1730 COMMERCE DRIVE #706 SUITE C,

BRIDGEPORT, CT, 06605

Public Square Partnerships is a relatively new company whose agent of service is none-other-than Nate Snow, the Director of Teach for America’s Connecticut Chapter.  Snow also serves as President of Excel Bridgeport Inc., another Bridgeport based charter school advocacy group that had its own run-in with the Connecticut Ethics Commission when it failed to register with the Office of State Ethics despite the fact that it was lobbying state government in favor of Governor Malloy’s illegal takeover of the Bridgeport School System.

Excel Bridgeport, Inc., along with Steve Perry supporter, Reverend Kenneth Moales, were the biggest supporters of education reform guru Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s inappropriately certified superintendent who was forced to leave after two years.  Vallas being best known for “charterizing” the Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans schools system before being recruited by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to “save” Bridgeport.

Although based in Bridgeport, Public Square Partnership not only lists TFA Director Nate Snow as its agent, but they use Teach for America’s New Haven office address as their official agent of service.

According to their website, Public Square Partnerships “focuses its investments on innovative change efforts that have attained tangible results for children attending schools in high-need communities or that have the potential to do so for sustainable and scalable impact.”

The company adds, “We partner with education organizations that develop educators, schools, and engage parents and community members in creating high-quality schools.”

Public Square Partnerships further reports that in its first year of operation, the company had contracts to help five schools in Bridgeport and New Haven, three of which were public schools and two were charter schools.

Among its clients, we are told, are the new Booker T. Washington Charter School Academy in New Haven and the Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport.

While Nate Snow serves as the Agent of Service for Public Square Partnerships, the President and CEO of the company is Diane Robinson who has spent the last twenty years working for the massive KIPP Charter School chain and Teacher for America.

The company’s Chief Operating Officer most recently worked as a Deputy Chief Portfolio Officer with the New York City Department of Education and before that was with the Washington DC Public Schools system.

The company’s third employee comes to Connecticut via the large education reform industry consulting firm called Schoolworks.

While more and more of the pieces of the puzzle come into view, the one thing that is absolutely clear is that there are a whole lot of organizations, spending a whole lot of money to further Governor Malloy’s pro-charter school, anti-public school and anti-teacher education reform agenda.

Malloy budget targets most vulnerable among us

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As we know, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy promised that he would not propose or accept any tax increase if he was elected to a second term  and then went ahead and proposed over $900 million in revenue “enhancements” in his budget address this week.

Malloy also used his re-election campaign to promise that he would maintain funding for local cities and towns and would not cut vital services.

On budget day, in the same document he proposed flat funding Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing education funding formula; he cut about $70 million from a variety of important public education programs that assist local schools as they seek to serve some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable children.

And as if all of that wasn’t revolting enough, Malloy reserved his most drastic and draconian cuts for some of the state’s most important social service programs.

In a powerful and MUST READ commentary piece, Sarah Darer Littman lays out the truth about Malloy’s devastating budget plan in her commentary piece at the CTNewsjunkie;

Governor’s Budget Ignores Evidence, Hits Vulnerable (By Sarah Darer Littman)

Last week, after two years of hearing testimony, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission issued its draft report.

One hundred and thirty pages of the 198-page report relate to mental health issues, and the importance of building “systems of care that actively foster healthy individuals, families and communities,” particularly in light of research showing that “approximately half of young people qualify for some behavioral health diagnosis by the time they reach 18.”

Yet less than a week later, when Gov. Malloy revealed his biennial budget for 2016-2017, it was as if the Commission had produced an expensive paperweight, for all the attention it received from the administration.

According to an analysis by CT Voices for Children,  the “Children’s Budget” – state government spending that directly benefits young people – makes up only a third of the overall state budget, yet over half (54 percent) of the governor’s proposed cuts come from programs affecting children and families.

That’s before we even get to health care and education.

The Sandy Hook report specifically mentioned the importance making it easier for families to obtain mental health services for young people. Yet the budget reduces funding for the Young Adult Services program by $2.7 million (3.3 percent) and reduces funding for school based health centers by $1 million (8.5 percent).

In the Department of Education, the governor plans to eliminate funding for “lower priority or non-statewide programs” by $ 6.2 million. Here we’re talking about programs such as Leadership, Education, Athletics in Partnership (LEAP); Connecticut PreEngineering Program; Connecticut Writing Project; neighborhood youth centers; Parent Trust; science program for Educational Reform Districts; wrap-around services; Parent Universities; school health coordinator pilot; technical assistance – Regional Cooperation; Bridges to Success; Alternative High School and Adult Reading; and School to Work Opportunities. Not only that,he’s cutting $6.49 million annually for Extended School Building Hours and Summer School components of the Priority School District Grant (i.e. grant program for districts with greatest academic need).

Wrap-around services, longer school days, and enrichment for students, particularly in the more disadvantaged districts, were something Malloy touted when he was selling his education reform package back in 2012. “It’s not as if we don’t know what works,” Malloy said in an article in the New Britain Herald: “wrap-around services, longer school days and longer school years, Saturday enrichment options.”

On top of what Malloy said, there’s over 100 years worth of research on summer learning loss. It disproportionately affects lower-income students whose parents can’t afford to send them to pricey summer camps or other enrichment activities. What’s more, the effects are cumulative, contributing to the achievement gap.

Take the time to read Sarah Darer Littman’s entire commentary piece.

You can find it at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_governors_budget_ignores_evidence_hits_vulnerable/

Today’s MUST READ PIECE – Where’s the Accountability? Anyone? By Sarah Darer Littman

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Quite simply it is the single best assessment of the issues surrounding the Jumoke/FUSE charter school scandal.

The article, written by Sarah Darer Littman is called, “Where’s the Accountability? Anyone?” and it can be found in its entirety on the CTNewsJunkie website – http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_wheres_the_accountability_anyone/

Read it and ask yourself…. Where is the accountability?

Sarah Darer Littman open with;

Dumping embarrassing news on the eve of a holiday is becoming a habit for the Malloy’s administration — and there’s been plenty of it to ring in the inauguration of his second term.

Late last Friday it was the release of the FUSE/Jumoke investigation report, which revealed financial mismanagement, nepotism, and misuse of public funds by a charter operator lauded by the Malloy administration. But the most disturbing part of this whole affair is that it reveals how millions of our taxpayer dollars are being handed out to private entities with little or no due diligence based on the recommendation of a closed, closely entwined loop of foundations, political allies, and corporate beneficiaries.

What investigating attorney Frederick L. Dorsey left out of his report, perhaps because he was hired by the state Department of Education, is how the department and the state Board of Education and so many others enabled Michael Sharpe in his unethical endeavors.

Take for instance, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who appointed former FUSE Chief Operating Office Andrea Comer to the state Board of Education. Or the state Ethics Commission, which ruled that there was no conflict in having Comer, the chief operating officer of a charter management company benefiting from millions of dollars of public funds, serving on the board that grants them. Then we have our state legislators, who unanimously confirmed Comer to the position. Maybe they were too busy playing solitaire when the vote was taken.

What about Stephen Adamowski, Paul Vallas, and the members of the Bridgeport Board of Education who voted to bring FUSE to Bridgeport as part of the Commissoner’s Network? The Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr. said he was “honored” to have Sharpe and FUSE in the district. Moales, of course, has — according to education reform critic Jonathan Pelto — had his own ethical challenges when it came to overbilling the state for daycare slots.

And she then closes with;

Last April, the state Board of Education voted to authorize the Booker T. Washington/FUSE charter school in New Haven. Perhaps they were influenced by glowing letters of recommendation from well-known political figures in the state: New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, and ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander, to name a few.

With messaging consistency that would make Republican pollster and messaging guru Frank Luntz proud, both Mayors DeStefano and Harp opened with exactly the same phrase: “I enthusiastically support the application for the Booker T. Washington Charter School, here in New Haven, CT. The proposed school will teach our young moral character, self advocacy, and common core standards, in order to impact their success in our diverse global environment.”

Having read Attorney Dorsey’s report on what took place at Jumoke Academy, there are definitely lessons to teach our young, but “moral character” isn’t the one that springs to mind.

Here’s ConnCAN’s Jennifer Alexander: “Two key reasons for my support for the Booker T. Washington [school] is its collaboration with a proven high-quality provider, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) . . . FUSE has a track record of success.”

That depends on your definition of “success,” doesn’t it? If “success” constitutes feathering your own nest at the expense of taxpayers, behaving unethically, and acting in such a way that even the parents at your own school “have questions about accountability for the financial piece,” as stated in the FUSE Board of Trustees minutes dated Oct. 10, 2013,  I guess FUSE did have that track record.

Listening to these same enablers say that “it’s for the kids” while they fleece the public purse is infuriating. But what really enrages me is knowing that there are so many fine educators in classrooms across this state trying to teach and help children day in and day out while being deprived of basic resources, while politicians are allowing our taxpayer dollars to be siphoned off by crooks.

The commentary piece written by Sarah Darer Littman is, as they say, “on point.”

Go to CT Newsjunkie right now and read the complete article at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_wheres_the_accountability_anyone/

 

Today’s “MUST READ” Columns on the Malloy/Pryor Charter School scandals

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Another Week, Another Scandal (By Sarah Darer Littman)

Another week, and another education scandal here in the Nutmeg State. The FBI served subpoenas on charter school operator FUSE last Friday morning, and shortly after their visit Hartford Courant reporters found the receptionist shredding documents. “Asked what was being shredded, she said the documents were associated with the state-subsidized Jumoke charter schools.” Obstruction of justice, anyone?

Meanwhile, after the notoriously opaque state Department of Education declined to issue reporters a copy of their own FBI-issued subpoena, the Courant received this statement Monday from Department of Education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly: “We have been assured that the department is not a subject of this investigation.” Okay then. That’s clear.

Yet by Tuesday, it was another story. Apparently, the subpoena seeks, among other things, “All emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor” since January 2012.

Read the complete piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_another_week_another_scandal/

 

A charlatan in charge of children (By Wendy Lecker)

It is becoming painfully clear that in Connecticut, the refrain that education reform is “all about the children,” is a sad joke. To Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his allies, children are merely collateral damage.

Recently, there was the scandal involving Hartford’s Milner school, in which the children were used as pawns in a scheme to expand the charter empire of now-disgraced Jumoke/FUSE CEO Michael Sharpe. Pryor never bothered to discover that Sharpe is a former felon and falsified his academic credentials. Instead, while Milner was floundering under Sharpe, Pryor, a longtime Sharpe supporter, handed him two additional schools. The fate of public school children was clearly the last thing on Pryor’s mind. Currently, the FBI is investigating Pryor’s, Sharpe’s and Jumoke/FUSE’s connections.

And now — New London. In 2012, Pryor decided to take over New London’s school district. His pretext was that the school board was dysfunctional and “rife with personal agendas.” Pryor never provided any causal relationship between the board’s behavior and student performance.

On the contrary, Pryor acknowledged that “many of the problems of New London and the New London School District are the direct result of economic decline and poverty.”

Instead of providing New London with adequate resources, the Malloy administration, through Pryor, appointed Steven Adamowski as New London’s powerful special master.

Adamowski was simultaneously the special master of another impoverished district, Windham. Adamowski’s reign in Windham was characterized by pushing unproven reforms while gutting services that actually helped children. He cut funding for Windham’s successful pre-K program and reduced the capacity of Windham’s bilingual program-even though over a quarter of the students are English Language Learners. He pushed the use of Teach for America, replacing experienced local teachers with temporary recent college graduates; and promoted “choice” for a select number of parents who could afford transportation to an out-of-district school.

 Read the full article at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-A-charlatan-in-charge-of-children-5647661.php

 

Search Firm Faulted For Overlooking ‘Ph.D.’ Claims In Carter’s Past; Says It Will Make Good (By Jon Lender)

You’re in front of a Google search screen. You type in “Terrence Carter” — in quotation marks — and then add Chicago, his hometown. Hit “Enter.”

On the first page of results there’s a link for some speakers’ biographies for a 2011 education conference. One of the “Presenter Biographies” is about “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and it says he holds doctorate from Stanford University — which he doesn’t.

That’s the process that The Courant went through two weeks ago, finding a public document listing Carter as the holder of a doctorate — several years before his scheduled receipt next month of a Ph.D. from an accredited institute, Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.

Expanding the search terms slightly — to combinations such as “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and Dr. Terrence P. Carter” — yielded a dozen such references.

A member of the search team Nebraska-based McPherson & Jacobson — a Nebraska-based human resources consultant — said she didn’t come up with any Ph.D. or Dr. listing. Carter was never asked about those references during the application process that led to his selection last month by New London’s Board of Education for the job of school superintendent effective Aug. 1.

As a result, the questions that could have been asked in the relatively relaxed setting of a job interview now will be asked in an overheated pressure-cooker situation. The school board Thursday night postponed a vote to approve a contract with the superintendent’s job and ordered its law firm to investigate Carter’s background. The probe is expected to take a month.

The action came after a series of Courant stories starting July 18 raised questions about Carter’s use of the titles Ph.D. and Dr. dating back at least to 2008.

Some officials and citizens in New London said they are wondering why the search consultant that pledged in March to perform “extensive background checks” on the candidates didn’t turn any of this stuff up.

“Why did it take someone from the Hartford Courant to vet the whole situation?” New London resident Eric Parnes asked the school board at its meeting Thursday night.

Read the complete article at: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-carter-resume-0727-20140726,0,1585462.column

 

And one more – file this one under – What the heck was “Dr.” Terrence Carter and the corporate education reform industry geniuses thinking?

PDF: Comparison Of Terrence P. Carter’s 2011 And 2014 Biographies

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Charter Advocates Give New Meaning To ‘Chutzpah’ (by Sarah Darer Littman)

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Charter Advocates Give New Meaning To ‘Chutzpah’ (CT Newsjunkie)

Sarah Darer Littman, pro-public school advocate, award winning columnist and parent has written one of the most powerful commentary pieces about the state of the state when it comes to the Charter School Industry and how the Malloy administration has allowed tens of millions in taxpayer funds to be diverted to people and companies that are literally felons, liars and cheats.

If there is one article to read about Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and the rise of the corporate education reform movement in Connecticut, this is the one.

Sarah Darer Littman writes,

The traditional definition of chutzpah  is someone who kills his mother and father and then claims being an orphan as a mitigating circumstance.

I’ve been reminded of this word constantly as the FUSE/Jumoke charter scandal unfolded over the last two weeks.

L’Affaire Sharpe has been quite astonishing, because as a mere mortal, not a Crony of Dan Malloy or part of the Charter Chicanery Circus, I underwent more due diligence than Sharpe to become a creative writing instructor for an after-school program at one of the local elementary schools for the non-hefty fee of a few hundred bucks.

To teach this Afters program, run by the Cos Cob Elementary School PTA, I had to undergo a criminal background check.

Last year, when I was hired as an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU (and we know how well adjuncts are paid), before my appointment was confirmed I underwent another criminal background check, and also had to have my transcript sent from the institution where I’d received my Masters Degree. Funnily enough, it was New York University, the educational establishment where Michael Sharpe received his fictional doctorate.

Yet the members of the state Board of Education, all appointed or re-appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, required no such due diligence before forking over $53 million of our taxpayer dollars to “Doctor” Sharpe’s organization. Just to make things even cozier, Gov. Malloy appointed FUSE’s chief operating officer, Andrea Comer, to the state Board of Education. Comer resigned earlier this week, in order to avoid being a “distraction.” I’m afraid it’s a little too late for that.”

Every word of Sarah Darer Littman’s CTNewsjunkie commentary piece paints the ugly story surrounding Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Pryor’s hand-picked employees and high-paid consultants and the State Board of Education.

In addition, Littman traces the relationship to no-nothing policy makers who have allowed scarce public resources to be squandered on the make-a-fast-buck industry that has been the foundation of Malloy’s education reform effort.

As you read Littman’s piece, remember that these are the same people who have forced the Common Core on our children, promoted the absurd, unfair and expensive Common Core testing scheme and the equally absurd, unfair and wasteful new teacher evaluation program.

No amount of political spin coming from Malloy or his education reform industry allies will disguise the fact that by introducing a bill to do away with teacher tenure and repeal collective bargaining rights for teachers in “turnaround schools,” Malloy became the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the nation.

As Sarah Darer Littman concludes,

“I guess no one in Hartford was watching the cookie jar — too much cronyism and not enough good government.”

You can find this MUST READ piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_charter_advocates_give_new_meaning_to_chutzpah/

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Libraries are so overrated… (Not)

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My children’s high school has a library and full-time library staff.  Their middle school had a library and a full-time librarian; even their elementary school had a library with a librarian.

But as a result of inadequate state funding (and outright stupidity on the part of some of our elected officials), many Connecticut children are attending schools that don’t have libraries or librarians.

In her latest CTNewsjunkie commentary piece entitled, College, Career and Democracy ready? Not without a trained librarian, fellow public-education advocate Sarah Darer Littman reveals the growing crisis of libraries in public schools.

Sarah Darer Littman opens here incredible piece with the following,

I had a conversation recently with a Connecticut politician in which I’d asked him if we truly care about literacy and improving reading skills, why are we spending so much money on testing while schools that most need functioning libraries don’t have any? Or if they do have a school library, why don’t they have up-to-date materials or a qualified media specialist to put the right book in the hands of a child at the right time?

When I’d asked the question, this politician asked me if research existed to justify the salary of a media specialist.

Littman goes on to examine the research about the efficacy of libraries, collects updates from Connecticut school librarians and reports that,

The sad fact is that in the districts that need them most, we are seeing school libraries underfunded or zero funded, and endorsed school librarian hours cut or eliminated.

Business leaders want our kids to be “college and career ready.” I want that but more, I want them to be life ready, with the socio-emotional and media literacy skills that they’ll need to be good citizens in our democracy.

It doesn’t look like our kids will be getting these skills under the self-styled, “Education Governor.”

The truth is that Sarah Darer Littman’s commentary piece should be required reading for every public official.

Why?

Because as Littman explains

Students can’t be ready for college, career, and democracy without being taught these important [library] skills. Handing them a shiny Chromebook and testing them more isn’t going to do the trick. Politicians from Washington on down need to recognize that current education policy is deeply flawed and must be revised before we waste more taxpayer money and send more children into the world woefully unprepared.

Take the time to read this important piece at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_college_career_and_democracy_ready_not_without_a_trained_librarian/

Kneecapped’ Malloy Has Only Himself to Blame

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Last night, Democratic Party leaders and delegates met to re-nominate Dannel “Dan” Malloy to run for a second term as Connecticut’s Governor.

Having won by 6,400 out of more than 1.1 million votes cast four years ago, the most recent public opinion poll indicates that only 44 percent of Connecticut voters think Malloy deserves to be re-elected.

Over the past four years, the percent who say Malloy should get another four years in office has never risen above 45 percent.

Compare that to New York where 59 percent of voters think Andrew Cuomo should get another term as that state’s governor.

In her latest CT News Junkie commentary piece, award winning columnist Sarah Darer Littman returns to the issue of whether it is a good idea to have 3rd party candidates or whether dissatisfied voters should simply “suck it up” and choose between what they are offered by the Democratic and Republican parties.

Littman, in here piece entitled,”Kneecapped’ Malloy Has Only Himself to Blame,” writes;

As the Democrats go to their convention, presumably to re-nominate Malloy as their candidate for governor, they should consider this: at a time where money dominates politics, the one thing citizens have left to us to attempt to level the playing field — in the fact only thing — is our vote. If the candidates from the two major parties are a choice between the devil you know, and the devil you know enough about to not want to vote for (the need to reform Connecticut’s closed primary system to break the two party stranglehold is the topic for another column), then choosing to vote for a third party isn’t being “spoiler.” It’s called exercising one’s constitutional right to vote. If Connecticut Democrats are so worried about losing, perhaps they should think about nominating a more electable candidate.

In response to Littman’s observation, many Democratic Party leaders insist that any diversion from a vote for Malloy is nothing more than a vote to plunge Connecticut into the hands of a right-wing, Republican governor.

And for his part, Malloy tried to use his convention speech to paint a rosy picture of his accomplishments.

“In a speech to the delegates, Malloy pointed to fiscal progress achieved since he took office in 2011…”

  • But Governor Malloy failed to fess up to the fact that his latest gimmick laden budget leaves Connecticut with a $1.4 billion budget deficient next year and his pledge never to accept or propose any tax increase in a second term ensures that Connecticut will be facing drastic cuts while the wealthy continue to get away from having to pay their fair share.

And

“On Friday night, [Malloy} touted a budget investing an additional $237 million dollars in education.”

  • But the Governor failed to admit that he used those scarce funds to push his corporate education reform industry agenda that includes privatizing public schools, taking away local control, implementing the Common Core and its massive Common Core testing scheme, and diverting scarce funds to charter schools rather than actually helping Connecticut’s public school system.

And

Malloy summed up what he called his successful term in office by saying, “This isn’t just my record, this is your record, too. It’s the people of Connecticut’s record because it was their sacrifice that allowed us to begin turning our state around.”

  • But Malloy simply skipped over the fact that his definition of “shared sacrifice” was one in which Connecticut’s middle class families faced higher income tax rates while those making more than $1 million a year walked away without having to pay more in income taxes.

And

Top labor leaders used the Democratic convention to speak out on behalf of Malloy’s re-election campaign.  For example, the former head of the AFL-CIO said he thinks that “Malloy has an extraordinary record with the labor movement.”

  • But the truth is Malloy’s “education reform” bill was the most anti-teacher, anti-union legislation proposed by any Democratic governor in the nation.  Malloy’s bill eliminated collective bargaining for teachers in turnaround schools, called for the destruction of teacher tenure and shifted public funds from schools with unions to schools that have kept employees from unionizing.

As Sarah Darer Littman reiterates, as Governor ramps up his 2014 campaign for re-election, he only has himself to blame for the anger and frustration felt by tens of thousands of voters who cast their ballot for him in the 2010 gubernatorial election.  The fact that he faces likely defeat rests on his shoulders, not on those who want a candidate that they can proudly support.

You can read Littman’s piece here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/oped_kneecapped_malloy_has_only_himself_to_blame/

For more on the Democratic Convention go to: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_nominated_to_second_term/ and http://ctmirror.org/democrats-insist-drama-free-state-convention-wont-sap-their-enthusiasm/ and http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-democratic-convention-20140516,0,1771967.story

‘The Other Guy is Worse’ Is A Tired Strategy (By Sarah Darer Littman)

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In her latest CT News Junkie commentary, fellow education advocate Sarah Darer Littman confronts THE ISSUE that faces Connecticut voters in 2014.  Are we left with the “choice” of voting for one candidate over another — because we are told the other is “worse” or do we break out of the trap that the two major political parties have created and demand choices that allow us to actually vote for someone we support.

As Sarah Darer Littman explains,

During the 2012 presidential campaign, I got a phone call from Obama for America asking for money. At the time I was still a registered Democrat, and I’d given frequently during the 2008 campaign, so the ask wasn’t a stretch.

But things had changed since 2008, particularly in an issue of great importance to me.

“I’m sorry — I will not give anything to Barack Obama until he commits to getting rid of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education,” I told the operator. “Please feel free to pass that message on.”

He persisted, with this line: “But Mitt Romney will be worse.”

That’s when I went ballistic. By the end of my rant, in which I told him just how very sick I was of Democrats asking me for money over the years using that pathetic, negative argument, he probably would have preferred if I’d just hung up on him.

When it comes to my potential run for governor, Littman observes,

That attitude has become even more apparent since April 18, when Neil Vigdor reported that former state representative and Wait What? blogger Jonathan Pelto might be considering a third party or independent run for governor. Instead of acknowledging there are real problems with their candidate, the Dems are doubling down on the “you have nowhere else to go” message. And instead of looking at why there is support for what would surely be a long-shot Pelto bid — a bid that is being fed by the widespread anger at Malloy that has people considering voting for a third party candidate and which might affect the broader Democratic ticket — they are instead focusing their energies on propaganda and attacks on Pelto. Nothing we haven’t seen before from the Malloy folks. Remember the infamous John DeStefano in a dress ad?

Littman closes with,

The Democratic Party needs to take a good long look in the mirror. If they decide to stick with the “status quo” and re-nominate Dan Malloy at the upcoming convention, they should seriously consider how that’s going to affect the ability to get an angry and frustrated electorate out to vote. “The other guy is worse” isn’t a winning strategy, and they’ll only have themselves to blame for losses in November.

Sarah Darer Littman’s latest commentary piece truly confronts the fundamental question of 2014.

Is choosing a candidate because the other may be worse really a choice?

You can read Littman’s important and powerful piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_other_guy_is_worse_is_a_tired_strategy/

Greenwich superintendent joins Commissioner Pryor in misleading parents

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Here we go again!

Instead of fulfilling their legal, moral and ethical duty as a superintendent of a public school system in Connecticut, yet another public school superintendent has decided to join the Malloy’s administration’s ongoing efforts to mislead Connecticut parents into thinking that they do not have a right to opt their children out of the absurd, unfair and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a test.

This time it is Greenwich Superintendent William McKersie.

Yesterday, April 24, 2014, Superintendent McKersie sent a letter to Greenwich parents, students and teachers saying;

Over the past several days, there has been discussion about students being able to “opt out” of the Smarter Balanced Field Test.  One or more unofficial flyers…have been circulating in the district and at Greenwich High School.

Let me be crystal clear:  Per Federal and State regulations, students do not have an “opt out” option with the Smarter Balanced Field Test.

With that letter, Greenwich’s superintendent of schools has decided to knowingly and intentionally mislead the parents that are paying his salary and the students that he is obligated to protect.

In response to Superintendent Mckersie’s outrageous letter, public education advocate, award-winning columnist, and Greenwich parent, Sarah Darer Littman, wrote a letter to the members of the Greenwich Board of Education that stated,

I would like to draw your attention to the underlined phrases in Superintendent McKersie’s email, which was sent to parents of Greenwich Public School students earlier today. I assume you are aware of this memo. Are you also aware that the information Supt. McKersie gave out to parents is patently untrue?

Let me be crystal clear: There is NO legal provision to prevent parents from opting out of the SBAC field tests. If you would like confirmation of this, please watch the video below, in which State Board of Education Chairman Allen Taylor confirmed this point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLm9gaCkNjY

I question why the superintendent, who is being paid with our taxpayer dollars, is lying to parents, and my question to you is: Did the Greenwich Board of Education condone this dissemination of false information?

 

Sarah Darer Littman is absolutely correct…There is NO legal provision to prevent parents from opting out of the SBAC field tests.

As many readers know having read the following Wait, What? posts,

Pryor: Enough! Read the statute and back off the lie that students must take the common core test

Malloy, Pryor, Superintendents – Stop lying about the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field!

Connecticut parents – Don’t let them lie to you on opting your children out of the Standardized Testing frenzy

And Who on earth would require HS juniors to take the Common Core Field Test in the spring?

Here are the facts;

First, as Littman explains, the chairman of the State Board of Education admitted – on tape – that parents have the right top opt their children out of the Common Core test.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLm9gaCkNjY.)

Second, Commissioner Pryor office sent out a memo late last year instructing superintendents on how to mislead parents into thinking they could not opt their children out, but even that memo ended with the instruction that;

[IF] “Parent writes back to the district a letter explaining that they have read and understood the district’s letter, but insist that the child not be tested.”

[THEN] “In these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing)…”

(See http://www.scribd.com/doc/206539705/Connecticut-State-Department-of-Education-on-Opt-Out-State-Testing-Requests-2014.)

 

Third, the law that Pryor and now Greenwich Superintendent McKersie are claiming requires that public schools conduct the “Mastery Test” is Section 10-14n of the Connecticut State Statutes.  However, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a tests is, by its own definition, not a Mastery Test as defined under the law so under no circumstance does that law apply to this year’s Common Core testing scheme.  [And even if it did, the law fails to give school districts any authority to punish parents of students for opting out].

Fourth, the reference to federal law limiting parental rights is totally inaccurate.  There is absolutely nothing in federal law preventing parents from opting their children out of standardized test.

Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor and superintendents like William McKersie need to stop lying to Connecticut’s parents and students about the Common Core and its related testing.

In this case, Greenwich Superintendent McKersie needs to issue an apology and inform Greenwich parents and students that his recent letter was wrong.

If he fails to take that appropriate step, then on behalf of the parents and students of Greenwich, the town’s elected representatives should demand McKersie’s resignation.

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